Thursday, December 16, 2010

Meet the parents

Or should I say, parents meet the parents. We are looking to squeeze in one more event of the season for 2010, because frankly a shotgun wedding just wasn't enough this year. I feel like I should begin by offering a disclaimer that I am not (really) withholding information from you, nor am I about to announce that I am getting married or, forbid, pregnant. There will be no talk of babies gracing these digital pages (not that there's anything wrong with that) or gratuitous shots of small doughy beings with disarmingly pleasant smelling scalps. Was that too much? Maybe I should have used "heads" instead of "scalps," which veers into the field of vocabulary employed by psychopaths in my mind.

Mama and Papa Geisha are coming to town, despite the song saying it will be Santa, and what would a visit to Tokyo be without an awkward cultural encounter with their daughter's pseudo in-laws? I am throwing them into the deep end. Let me also preface this by saying that I will be translating the whole damn thing, despite briefly considering asking my only cool Japanese girlfriend (OCJG) to come along and help, offering her a free meal and a front row seat at what is bound to be a fun cultural shit storm. I plan to start sculling wine as soon as we sit down and when I get so drunk I start babbling at my own parents in Japanese, I will simply tell everyone to talk amongst themselves and go out into the cold December air for a cigarette.

Talk of this dinner has been happening for over six months now and is about to reach fever pitch. Dotting this timeline, we have changes in attendees, discussions of attire and gifts and, perhaps most importantly (aside from my own personal meltdowns), who is going to pay for it all. I've been running so hot and cold as to think I am pre-menopausal when it comes to who will grace our fair dinner table. We had initially said the parental sets and maybe Baby Daddy and then of course during the summer, the beau had to go and invite Baby Mama (and Baby Mama's baby), which, despite all odds pointing to her obvious attendance, I cannot seem to rationalize or think about without getting riled up. I know that she is more family than I am at this point, but while everyone is telling me the baby will be a welcome distraction, I can't help but see it as a distraction from me. As in a distraction from me and my party.

Have I mentioned I know I'm crazy? I am pretty much resigned to the situation and haven't thought about asking Baby Daddy to just bring the baby for at least ten days now. It's all about the small steps. I have however, come up with a new reason I don't want Baby Mama there: who is she to share in my special family time? I can only guess at what will actually be said during this upcoming dinner, but I don't think BM deserves to be privy to it. Cue a few sentences where I tell you just how much I realize this is petty, unfounded and completely wack. BD is a doll for the most part but this Japanese girl I hardly know attending my dinner has caused me to exhibit some embarrassing behaviours in front of the beau. Luckily, he already knew I was a queen. I promise to try and be a good drunk and not let something snarky slip out about not being in a pregnant rush to get married.

The beau's mom called us a few weeks ago and started grilling him on what to wear and what kind of dinner, specifically, we were hosting. We tried to impress upon her that it was a casual affair and that I didn't want them bringing any extravagant gifts for my parents. Apparently the protocol changes depending on whether we are calling this an Official Engagement Party or a lower cased introduce-the-parents-party. The words and greetings exchanged also change according to category and despite explaining that my parents wouldn't know what the hell was being said to them in any case, the beau's mom insisted that we define it for her.

Talk about international negotiations. We have the beau trying to placate his mom while I am trying to discern whether she will listen to him on the omiyage front at the same time running interference with my parents. It's really the gesture that counts, so I have given instructions to bring a small assortment of delicacies from Vancity, which will be appropriate whether the beau's parents bring something or not. I also had to explain to my mom that there isn't a set "exchanging of the gift" time or ceremony where it all goes down simultaneously with flash-bulbs going off, so there is no need to plan on bringing an incognito bag to hide the gift in case it isn't reciprocated and we-don't-want-to-embarrass-them-or-make-a-huge-cultural-gaff. I'm tired, are you?

The one issue I thought we had agreed on came to a grinding halt during one of our nightly conversations that take place when I am practically sleep talking and the beau has returned from work. We really need to put a stop to these 3am conversations. When we initially talked about who would pay, I suggested that everyone just put money in, unless this would offend the beau's parents for some reason. I can't have my parents pay for dinner and drinks for 8-10 people and I wouldn't necessarily expect the beau's parents to pay either. The beau said either his papa would pay or we would ask everyone to give us money. Fast forward to 3:12 a.m. and when I confirm this agreement, the beau says he/we will pay for it. There were a whole lot of noyouwonts thrown around and then just for good measure, I started in with that I wouldn't have approved BD and BM coming if I had known we were going to pay for everyone. Illegitimate sister-in-law-hood problems aside, that's just fucking stupid. Let's go to a beach in Thailand instead stupid. I don't want the beau paying because ultimately, that means I will be paying too. Lord knows what is going to happen when we get the check but I'm hoping everyone quite literally starts throwing money at us.

Everything else, my controlling personality will have to leave to fate, or the other people sitting at the dinner table. There has been some talk of me receiving (his) mama's engagement ring, which we have never seen, and having it put into a new setting. It's kind of crushing to think how good the beau's parents have been to me and how it potentially could have turned out so horribly different. I'm hoping if she does bring it, there will be none of it at the table because wouldn't it just be my luck to be told to try it on and struggling to just get it on my pinky like a foolish motherfucker (while chanting in my head "just get it on whitie, you are a strong, powerful woman"). As a wise friend once said, old diamonds tend to be small diamonds, and I would also like to be spared the throat pain of getting all high and whiny in effusive praise for something that may put me off second-hand gifts. Either way gentle readers, it promises to be a smashing evening with the potential for disaster!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Event of the Season (III)

Before I delve into the delicious December gossip, it might be a good idea to finally bring the wedding that was to a close.

I think I left you where we were getting booted out of the reception hall and it was only oh, about 2 in the afternoon. Weddings are strictly timed here (not as in, see how fast you can do it, but to ensure the whole thing fits within a set time slot, probably to make way for other suckers, I mean happy couples), so as soon as the lining up and crying and candle lighting was done, it was very clear that we were to, well, clear out. We grabbed our goody bags and had to go through whatever is the opposite of a receiving line, despite being family, providing yet another awkward opportunity to bob up and down at Baby Mama's parents. We did get mini cans of Asahi Super Dry though, which was a thoughtful touch.

Are you chewing on your hangnails to know about the gift bags? It is normal at weddings here to give a gift to every guest that is around twice what you predict will be received from them. If I were in charge of the world, I would say let's give the married couple half the amount and call it even. I have no need (or room) for photo frames and fugly crystal vases that are not my taste, although I did once receive a lovely set of Tiffany rock glasses. I buy so much already, I hate to receive stuff that I am not going to use, it is such a waste, not to mention this gifting system basically means you are buying a useless gift for yourself.

Inside each bag was a box of cakes and a nicely wrapped catalogue weighing several pounds. Apparently lots of couples do this - provide a gift catalogue with a pre-arranged label, and their guests can choose their own gifts. Later at home the beau and I scoured through the catalogue and I kept trying to guess whether everything cost the same. What a strange idea. The catalogue included food products, household items, clothing and even a small toolkit, and flipping through the pages was kind of depressing. Not because you shouldn't be allowed to buy questionable products from a mail-order catalogue, but because this was a result of some of the 70,000 yen we shelled out. I told the beau I didn't want to order anything, they could keep the money, but if you don't order something within a certain time period, the catalogue people will just send some consolation gift basket as everything is prepaid. And god forbid you don't walk away with something for your efforts. We ended up ordering a bottle of sparkling and a knife to replace the 100 yen store one I am several cuts away from slicing off a finger with. That's right, I will drop money on clothing and dinner and yet I have been using a $1 knife to cut with for the last three years. Moving on then.

I went to the bathroom on the way out and as I was washing my hands, I looked up to see a polished and sleek suited woman calling my name. I couldn't place her and yet she knew exactly who I was and was doing that wavy spazzy happy puppy thing Japanese girls do. Hopefully my look of complete blankness wasn't a dead giveaway, because the next moment I placed it: the suspicious sex friend from our unfortunate foray into the Saitama concrete jungle! Mama was looking fine! No longer wearing a too small and too short dumpy denim skirt that made her legs truly look like the beloved "daikon legs" one hears about here, she had her hair blown out and was wearing long strands of pearls with a black pantsuit (something I have never seen a woman wear to a wedding here). We had a happy little reunion while I silently wondered as to the true nature of her relationship with Baby Daddy, but I guess we will never know.

Back at the hotel we all stayed at, the beau's mom, aunt and I locked ourselves in an empty room to get changed. I didn't know an interrogation was also on the menu. You saw the pictures of these tiny women compared to my looming 5'6 frame, and yet, as they went about efficiently folding up their kimono and packing everything away, they managed to grill me about the state of my relationship with the beau. I don't think I should have to deal with questions from his family, so I tried to deflect the conversation on to him and suggested that they talk to him about it. This made them ask whether he was dragging his feet and that was what the hold up was. How could I possibly explain the myriad of reasons we would not be getting married the next month. His mother clucked that my parents must wonder what the hell I am doing over here, cohabiting with a strange man for so long (quite the opposite). His aunt started to fold up my kimono while I was getting undressed and we stopped a minute to laugh at how silly she looked running up and down the length of the bed to fold up all the extra fabric. With her own short frame, she can fold her own kimono while standing in one place but mine required her to go back and forth from collar to hem to get it all in place. The the beau's mom suggested that, if my parents ended up coming to Japan in December, why not just get married then? She is sweating for us to get married.

God I hope she doesn't think I feel bad that we weren't married first. I also hope she doesn't think I am going to get married quickly at some shitty hotel service with no dancing just so I can be married. I mumbled some crap about it being hard to plan an international wedding and they let me out of the room.

A short while later, BM and BD showed up at the hotel, having changed out of their frumpery and looking like a couple of teenagers. No honeymoon, no romantic send off, they spent their wedding night having dinner with us and then going back to Saitama. Sad face. Dinner was really nice actually, albeit a tad strange seeing as no one really knows BM and yet there we were, having dinner with her on their wedding night. In the elevator down to dinner, BD turned to the beau and I and with a shitty little smirk apologized for getting married first. Although he was just trying to be funny it took all my soul to smile back. Why does everyone think I want to get married!?

So there you have it gentle readers, that is about all I can remember from the most highly anticipated event this year. Now we can talk about what comes next.

The break-up

My secretary broke up with me this week. Praise the lord.

It started last week with some murmured snippets about some desk shifting about to go down, but I didn't dare get my hopes up that it would be her moving. Not having to deal with her weird sour puss attitude and continued resistance to acknowledging my existence was more than I dared hope for. Having her continually in my peripheral vision all day every day was starting to do my head in. I have realized though, that her issues cannot be chalked up solely to her being Japanese, and I think she is genuinely just kind of fucked up. Case in point: she always eats lunch at her desk. I do too, for the most part, but I do it because I am a lonely whitie with a vag. What with her nationality and ethnicity behind her, she should be able to fit in with the other secretaries and score invitations to lunches where bore-me-to-tears conversations abound. The fact that she does not is suspect.

She is now gone, far down the hall and out of my line of sight. Not surprisingly, she said absolutely nothing to me about it, but made a point of saying goodbye to the nice secretary diagonally across from me. The first I officially heard about anything was when that new quiet secretary who used to sit next to me, came over and said that again, she would be joining my quad of shame, yoroshiku, etc., thank you very much. I feel like I have written in detail about the two quiet secretaries who used to sit near me, but for the life of me I cannot find it. In short, they were unnaturally quiet. Hanging up the phone in slow motion-type shit. I don't think I ever saw either one with a plastic bag or anything that could have emitted an offensive sound. I became painfully self-conscious of pulling a tissue from its box, taking my sandwich out of its bag, popping open a diet Coke, even the sound of my palm-sized stapler sent waves of paranoia through me. The worst part is, they weren't simply quiet, they were purposefully quiet. I could see the pains they took to ensure total silence and it in turn, pained me.

So this is who I have sitting next to me again. We will see how it goes. Three or four days after my secretary moved, she finally sent me an email to tell me that one of her main duties in relation to me is being shifted to Quiet One. And that maybe she should have told me earlier. You motherfucking think? I was so very very very tempted to write back that yes, she should have told me, and while we're at it, she should have told me she was moving too. I mean, my nose is so freakishly tall that sometimes I miss things going on to the side of me and holy shit was I surprised to turn my head one day and find a completely different person sitting on the other side of the divide. I am still trying to decide how to ask my secretary whether she is still my secretary or whether I should now direct everything to Quiet One. I am of half a mind to just email HR and have them clarify things for me since she is not being very forthcoming.

Living in Japan blurs the lines for me and I am left wondering about the motives behind people's actions: are they targeting me as someone who is foreign and female, or are they just ass holes? I alluded to it a little in my most recent manner post, but I am struggling with the extension of kindness to strangers. I'm not sure where the turning point came and went, but somewhere along the way I got it into my head that everyone is against me. There are obviously many exceptions to this rule (even at the Kaisha), but for the most part, sadly, I automatically assume that people outside of my little corner apartment in Nihonbashi are out to get me. I suppose I could easily draw this conclusion living somewhere else, but never have I encountered such a wall of passive-aggressiveness and people fronting all kinds of attitudes in my general direction.

Late last night as I was riding home, I came upon a group of six or seven salarymen taking up most of the sidewalk (which, by the way, is spacious on Showa-dori), so I moved to the very far left so as not to break up their group. What do you know, but two of them decide to move to the same side and then split up, making it almost impossible for me to squeeze through. I would have dismissed it as that peculiar and frustrating habit of people here to go completely against (my) logic when moving around other pedestrians and bike traffic. Last night though, the two salaryfuckers must have decided to fuck with me, because they had to move away from the group to block me and as I barely made it through swearing out loud at how tight they had closed ranks, the whole group started laughing about it. Those two in particular deserve to have Mavis run over their fucking underused balls. Now class, did the salarymen gang up on me because I was a foreigner on a bike? a female on a bike? a foreign female on a bike? a person with wavy hair on a bike? a sweaty person with wavy hair on a bike? a sweaty female on a bike? I will never know.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do it again, Sven

Admission: as I walked by this very quickly, the only plausible explanation in my mind was that this strapping Swede called Sven was showing Creepy the correct and fashionable way to tie his scarf. In my harried mind, this poster was serving to warn how a long scarf could lead to your demise if the doors closed on it. All that fresh air on my bike in the morning must be doing me in, for as I glanced at the last picture, it seemed perfectly natural that Sven would be giving Creepy the thumbs up after trying to impart his flawless continental styling tips. It was not until I nabbed this image of the Tokyo Metro website that I realized that this was about not getting in other people's ways, and that Sven's scarf knot with a gay gym-bunny vibe was a completely incidental but welcome aside to the whole thing.

Second admission: I love that I am no longer a slave to the train! I am an adoring fan of the subway system here but only when it doesn't involve going to and fro work. After my years on the Tokyo subway, I have become hardened and not a little jaded. I used to think I was a polite stranger, but now I am not someone you would want to fuck with underground. It saddens me not a little that I have such an attitude now and instead of apologizing at bumping into strangers, I immediately feel wronged and issue a little "fuck you" in my head. This is not cool, I am turning into one of those gaijin we love to hate!

Third and last admission: I am kind of excited about December. I won't be reversing my stance from two years ago but I did watch the Royal Tenenbaums last night for the first time in maybe five years and not only did I remember that it is one of my favourite movies, it put me in the holiday mood. Whatever the holiday mood is for a Jewess in Tokyo saying to herself, "does Hanukkah start tonight?!" Get me some candles.

See you hopefully sooner than later gentle readers! (Just to prove my love, I promise to finish up all the loose ends from this year, including but not limited to, how I almost cried during my kimono test, the surprise guest at the wedding back in April, the upcoming family entanglements and maybe as a bonus, how I have been naked in front of several hundred Japanese people.)

That's mama-san to you!

So remind me, where were we? Although I have not yet penned the third and final chapter to the Event of the Season, aka the wedding of Baby Mama and Daddy, we all know how it ends, with a wee babe, which is what makes shotgun weddings so predictable! Well, Baby Mama has finally earned her name and she is truly a mama now. The beau and I finally made the pilgrimage out (up?) to Saitama to see his small niece and BM for the first time since the wedding. Obviously she is just darling (the child not Baby Mama) and when no one was looking I tried to get a few head sniffs in without scaring them into thinking the large Whitie was trying to suck the small defenseless Japanese baby in through her (tall) nose. Someone needs to bottle that scent, stat.

We took some pics and oo'd and ahh'd and all went out for dinner. BM is nice but I don't think we will ever be super close, not least of all because she lives in Saitama. I was obviously on the look out to see how she would behave towards me seeing as she is now the daughter the beau's family never had WITH an official ring AND an official baby (collect them all!). I can chalk part of my keen observation skills up to being culturally curious but really, I have a vagina with an A-type personality and an axe to grind. You figure it out.

Part way through a conversation about my solo expedition up north over the summer, BM is talking about some "mama," and it takes me a couple seconds to realize she is talking about the beau's mom. And a couple seconds more to feel totally scandalized. The beau and BD call their parents "papa" and "mama" as I have noted before, but I could not believe that this trollop with a baby accessory was calling her (our/whatevs) mother-in-law by the common "mama." I used to avoid calling the beau's parents anything at all, which is pretty easy breezy in Japanese, and if pressed, I would call her "okaasan," which is perfectly acceptable and decorous. I managed to keep it all smiles and grace through about six more beers and then on the way home I let the beau, the poor man, have it. Did you hear her call your mom "mom"?!? What the fuck is up with that? Even I don't call her that! Wah wah wah all the way home.

Being diplomatic and not possessing a vagina, the beau explained it away as her simply imitating what BD calls his parents. Do call me out if you happen to know otherwise, but Excuse Me? I don't see any Japanese ladies calling their mother-in-laws (excuse the wordiness but I refuse to use the initials that plague wedding/family chat boards. Slash I don't get most of them.) "mama." I wonder if BM calls her that to her face! I'm still pretty skeeved about the whole thing, trivial and petty as it is, but I feel like I have put a number of years of work into this family and BM just waltzes in after a night of unsafe sex squawking "mama." Alternatively, we could just call it what it really is: plain old competition of the female variety.

I have enjoyed a few years as the white (but still perfectly acceptable) de facto daughter to these people, which frankly is not hard when you are licensed to wield a kimono and your competition is an endless parade of underage girls who couldn't show you a breast if you paid them. Now within the span of six months I have been practically ousted from my position of privilege by a floozy from Saitama with incredibly fertile eggs. This is of course a gross exaggeration given my frequent emails with okaasan and my solo maiden voyage north, but as someone who may or may not produce the two crowning jewels for any woman in this country to be worth a damn (marriage and babies, natch), I'm starting to schvitz under my ta-tas a little. Everything was rainbows and lollipops when I was the only girl on the scene with my somewhat understandable Japanese and adorable interest in regional Japanese festivals, but now they have a Real Live Japanese Daughter (spawn included), I'm starting to feel a little put out. It didn't help matters when okaasan sent me a photo a couple weeks ago of the wee babe with a message indicating that her and otousan (or "papa" if you are a biatch from Saitama) had recently visited Saitama for a night. As much as I would like to think Saitama is far far away from Tokyo, it actually isn't. Obviously, being child-free means I have nothing to entice them to come to Tokyo. Only time will tell and while I work myself out of being a complete sook I will think pleasant thoughts about disposable income, travel and the intoxicating smell of tissue paper holding some new item of clothing.

We will see in coming weeks (shit is going down at the respective casas from whence Geisha and the Beau sprang) whether BM dares to call the beau's parents "mama" and "papa" to their face. In the unlikely event you were wondering, she calls me Geisha-chan. I can't help but wonder if she will ever call me "onesan" like a good Japanese family member because although she is technically older than me, my attachment to the beau, the oldest son, trumps age (ha!), making me the older sister. I've heard her call the beau "oniisan" so I don't know what kind of racket she is running but in her defense, she is dealing with an unwed whitie of questionable status. Maybe I should suggest she call me "whitie" from now on and we call it a day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Dark river night

Hooking up with Mavis is possibly one of the best things that has happened to me during my time in Japan. Deep into our honeymoon period, we are tearing it up all over town. I even thought I would be clever and take her to my last eyebrow threading appointment in Nishi-kasai AKA a place very far from central Tokyo when all you have is your legs to carry you. I thought it would take about an hour of concentrated love-making with Mavis to get there and thought, why not? I had nothing better to do that Friday night than get my brows lined up and take a monster bike ride.

Getting to Nishi-kasai from my side of town, I have to cross two rivers. Two! Here I thought I was living in a metropolis, who says there isn't nature a-plenty to enjoy. The way there was fairly uneventful but long, and things didn't start to look iffy until I was starting to cross the second bridge, which spans a wide big Bertha of a river. You would think with such a wide river, the footpath on the bridge would be ample but no, there was barely enough room for two bicycles to squeeze by each other and wouldn't you know it, the only crazy motherfuckers crossing the bridge were on two wheels. Have I mentioned that it was windy and dark? So I am pedalling for my life across this huge bridge, until I approach other bikers of course, when I have to slo-o-ow it down so that we can cross paths unscathed. It felt rather like a wild nature safari after my years of self-imposed confinement to concrete.

Pretty-browed and a short break later, I prepared for the journey back. Biking far and wide is fabulous as long as you remember that you must ultimately rely on your own two legs to get you back home. It was recommended that I take a different bridge on the way back, one with more girthal allowance, and as I headed to the first river, instructions on turning right or left were promptly carried away on the wind. Reaching the river, I automatically thought the bridge to my right was the one I had come over on and so I logically started towards the bridge to my left. "Left" is a bit of an understatement; "bridge way the fuck down river" would be a more fitting description. Away I pedalled, sometimes glancing down at the dark black river churning to my right. A yakata-bune made it's way down the river with its kitsch red lanterns swinging to the waves and as I looked across the river and saw nothing but low buildings and fog trimmed in hazy light, it occurred to me that I was very far from home, Toto. I couldn't see clusters of high buildings in Shinjuku, Shibuya or any other civilized hub. This caused me to pedal faster and with more purpose towards the bridge in front of me.

It was as I passed under the bridge with no on-ramp in sight that I started to feel a little nervous. I had been told explicitly that the river path led right onto the bridge and well, this huge bridge way over my head was not looking accessible from on top of Mavis's leather throne. I did the only logical thing to me at the time and began to pedal inland from the river, thinking that perhaps the on-ramp to the "bridge" started way over there where my eyes couldn't reach. Notice how I just used bridge in quotation marks? That's a little bit of foreshadowing right there, for as I got further and further from the river and into abandoned industrial area save for a lane of very fast cars, it began to dawn on clever me that perhaps there was no path over the "bridge" if you weren't in a car, or by the looks of it, an eighteen-wheeler truck. It was Sophie's choice trying to decide whether to keep going further in to find this path that frankly, was beginning to look as if it existed only in my head, or to turn around and go 30 minutes back to the bridge to my right. No one in the world knew where I was at that moment, so I decided to cut my losses and head back to the original bridge. Turns out, this "bridge" I had planned on crossing? It was a fucking highway.

It also turns out the original bridge wasn't the original bridge, but the one I was supposed to take on the way home to save myself the stress of playing chicken with other bikes. By this time, exhaustion was setting in and climbing up the bridge's steep incline, I was actually uttering the mantra "You are a strong powerful woman, you are a strong powerful woman", possibly out loud, to get me over to the other side. It was that or think about how not even the beau knew my whereabouts and if I didn't propel my ass home, I was going to be spending a night camped outside a Jusco (yes, that is how far out of Tokyo Nishi-kasai is).

Almost two hours and a regular coke (which I never drink) later, I made it back to my sweet sweet home and basked in the comfort that is feeling surrounded by concrete and department stores with things I cannot afford.

Friday, November 5, 2010

but who's counting

Hello Hello Hello Hello. That is the echo heard over the internets when you've neglected your blog for um, about a year (I've been busy making sweet, sweet love to Mavis). If anything was going to lure me back in, a host with yellow hair in a questionable style is at the top of the list. That and the fact that we get to meet Baby Creepy again who has had a sudden growth spurt (and appears to either be doing a nazi salute or backhanding his mother's ta-tas).

The young host looks smoother than Kimu Taku as he responsibly whips out his cell phone and makes a flashy display of turning it off (girl boner!). I love how he sparkles with little crosses after doing his good deed for the year but am a little confused as to what they denote: cleanliness? godliness? moving sniper targets? It's all the same down in Kabukicho. It's refreshing to see the Tokyo Metro using a broader spectrum of societal characters in making their manner points, but again, it seems to me they are at the same time indicating that it is the young part-time youth that are the problem, when we know it's actually the disenfranchised salarymen, mothers with strollers and white geisha who are the real problem.

Speaking of feeling disenfranchised, I have yet again caught my secretary doling out the omiyage to every other bitch with high heels except me. She's not bad at including me in the rounds when other people's swag is getting passed from quadrant to quadrant, but in the whole time we've not been besties, I haven't once received omiyage from her. And I know she has gone somewhere at least three times, even if it was just to Disneyland or somewhere equally close ( =still within approved omiyage distance). Humor me while I remind you that I have given her furry stuffed some-would-say-cute animals not once, but a total of two times. Twice! And yet she still acts like a pigeon-stepping paranoid spook around me and thinks I won't notice when someone stops by her desk and receives omiyage from her in plain sight. I don't know what I have done to her to cause such aversion to me that I no longer ask her for help when I require it; I simply figure out how to do it myself or ask another secretary who knows how to smile naturally and convincingly. I must simply disgust her. I wish she would hurry the fuck up and get married or pregnant already so she would just quit.

Slightly unrelated, but I feel it is my duty to make a PSA to all you fancy toilet users out there: If you are reaching to push the Sound Princess and accidentally hit the bidet button instead, for god's sake DON'T jump up in surprise before hitting "off" (you: cork, toilet: bottle of champagne). Obviously this is another one of those things I came up with through sheer thought process and not actual Real Life experience.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Bitch, please

I think it could be a sign that you've really made it in Japan when you can verbally assault passersby in Japanese at the drop of a hat. If you'll humor me this hypothesis, then I can tell you that as of today, I have officially arrived.

The beau and I were prancing through Ginza this afternoon on one of the back streets when he stopped to look at a menu in front of a restaurant. There was a woman coming towards us on my side but I stopped and moved in towards the beau. I kind of actually hate when people randomly stop in the street to look at stuff but the beau had pulled over so what could I do. Stroller Bitch must have thought I should have waited for her to pass, because when she went around us (and P.S. there was plenty of room because it wasn't a street with raised sidewalks), she clucked her tongue and snarled "jama da yo" to me, which basically means "you're in the way" and not something you say to people in the street. Without missing a beat, I immediately shot back "omae ga jama da yo." I've discussed the use of "omae" before ("you") - I've seen it used to show familiarity among the beau and his family, and I've also gotten pissed at him for using it with me when we argue when it's used in a derogatory way. I was definitely not being familiar with Stroller Bitch when I spat it out at her.

Nothing more happened, she kept going and I turned back to the beau who was studying the menu with the concentration of a pro. Or that of one with a cray cray girlfriend prone to amuse and offend.

Immediately after the exchange I felt like crying like a little bitch. I think this was partly due to the fact that I was hungry and tired but I definitely felt uneasy about the whole thing. I've gotten into physical passive-aggressive shoving with people during my commute, which is well-documented, but I've never had such an exchange with someone on the street, no matter how many times I've wanted to. Which may account for my immediate and perfect response ("you're the one in the fucking way"). As with most humans, my response time is slow and I can only think of clever comebacks hours after the fact but today my delivery was pitch perfect. The practicing in my head has obviously and at long last paid off.

I feel pretty bad at the moment about the whole thing, although I really wouldn't have done it much differently to be honest: I don't know whether she would have said that to me if I was Japanese, I can only speculate, but I did want to make it very clear to her that I knew exactly what she was saying. I may have done a bad thing for foreigners everywhere just trying to make it here in Japan, and for that I am sorrry, but I refuse to take shit for something so trivial as not kowtowing to a woman who has decided to take her demon spawn out for a walk.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Let's Party

Yes, let's.

Starting with some hot pants to go under my pleated navy skirt for those windy days.

And then on to some "loose" socks, those scrunchy white wonders adorning the legs of only the most fashionable school girls.

Super wide for extra scrunch and volume.

I think it might be difficult to ever make oneself inconspicuous here as a foreigner - even dressing "local" would be like walking around with a cardboard cutout of a tree strapped to your front and hoping to blend in with the scenery - but should you ever feel in need of a good dose of attention whoring, might I suggest a Japanese school uniform? I've only ever received a lot of random vocal attention all at once when wearing kimono or yukata but the uniform punches it up to a whole new level: you become part of the collective national fantasy. There is even a party held sporadically in Tokyo where you can unite with other uniformed lovelies and dance in front of gold-framed mirrors with dead animal heads on the walls that stare blankly at the gratuitous chandeliers. Why yes, I am turning 27 in a few weeks.

Young hip things (i.e., my peers!) in Shibuya even yelled nice stuff at me from their groups huddled on the dirty sidewalk doing god knows what. I was forced to snub someone once at the end of the night when this guy kept getting up in my grill: he thought he was being a conversationalist, I thought he was being an ass^hat. He asked me if I like anime to which I gave a vehement no and explained that I had merely been out to a party. Where people dress in school uniforms. So much hotter than anime (no offense otaku). I want to run off and join the schoolgirl circus.

That is a Strong Zero that I'm holding - I was going to go for a Slat (whose unfortunate name conjures images of Beavis and Butthead saying "slut") but was lured in by its long sleek body. And I rarely even drink these bitch drinks anymore - give me a beer or a vodka rickey any day.

I rarely try to bore you with non look-I'm-in-Japan content (isn't that all I can think about anyway, being in Japan?!), but seeing as I am dressed as a schoolgirl with a little jungle flava above, I feel it has provided a sound opener to draw your attention to the It Gets Better Project headed by the only sex columnist worth listening to, Dan Savage. With my dark heart things rarely make it in there these days but this has managed to. If you know a LGBT or questioning youth, let them know that it gets better.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Like two bikes passing in the night

I was going to title this "Love at first bike," but then I found an even better platitude to make you cringe. One night last week on my way home from work, I paused at a busy intersection on my bike and looked up to see the beau across the street on his bike and on his way to work, waving. I suppose this was bound to happen eventually but given the number of different routes I've been using to get back and forth and the fact that our work places are on opposite sides of the Imperial Palace, I was taken completely and blissfully unaware at the coincidence in this anonymous capital and our being able to steal a quick kiss on the corner before going our separate ways. It's truly the moments like these that make all those fist-clenching ones easier to simply let go. (No more gaggy love stuff, promise.)

I'm not in a habit of naming inanimate objects, but I feel like my bike should have a name. What better name than Mavis? I can't pin point where my obsession with the name Mavis started, possibly around the time I was at an all girls' college in Wellington, but there was a definite era when I named everything Mavis.

I haven't had a bike since I was on exchange during uni, so getting on a bike, my Mavis, was incredible. Riding her home that first night past the Imperial Palace, dark and still, was nothing short of thrilling. It reminded me of my first car ride in Tokyo ever. Now I am used to taxiing through the city at inappropriate hours and even having been behind the wheel a couple times myself (rental car, not taxi), it no longer feels special, but when I was at uni here, I hadn't been in a car in months and I certainly wasn't taking taxis - I was at Pure until 5am and falling asleep on the train home, only to wake up in fucking Mitaka. But my first car ride after months spent popping up from underground at various spots around town and hurtling by the buildings on above-ground trains felt very foreign. Foreign and not a bit luxurious, sitting next to my first private student - an older lawyer type - in his Mercedes, as we glided through the Shinjuku neon. No, I probably shouldn't have gotten into his car, but I made a judgment call based on his business card, the fact that our first lesson was at the Hyatt, and that I could probably have taken him if it came down to it. If you ever get to the point where you feel you really know a city, try a different mode of transport - bike, double-decker bus, car, piggy-back and legs all come with their own unique perspective.

One first I did have last week, was the pure joy of riding a bike while listening to music. Do other people know about this stuff?!? I feel like I've been missing out all this time. Half-way through my ride home I decided to stick in my ear buds and HELLO WORLD!! I suddenly felt like I was starring in my own private music video on a bike and had to resist trying to dance while pedalling. I was content to think that biking itself was enough but this whole biking while musicing combo has just turned it up to eleven. Thrilling, I tell you, thrilling. I've had a similar feeling at the gym when I suddenly feel the urge to frantically twist my hands around in time to the Bollywood driving my workout forward or to start shaking my bootay to a particularly inspiring piece of rap. Try it. You can thank me later.

If you are on two wheels in Japan, check out these sites and articles about biking . Note that when I say "biking" when referring to myself, I am literally just propelling myself forward on a two-wheeled vehicle in a very perfunctory manner and am no way experienced, sporty or non-threatening to pedestrians. Regardless of whether you have a bike with gears or a mama-chari, the above sites should still prove interesting. With the feeling of fall creeping up, fashion magazines are dishing out forecasts on the next "it" accessory to have for this season but if you ask me, it's a bicycle hands down.

Ode to Osaka

Can I just say that I think I belong in Osaka? Granted, Tokyo is uber hip and fast-paced and I can get my nails done with a cocktail in one hand, but the stuck up Kanto bitches pale in comparison to the fun-loving Osakans. And before you jump down my throat for generalizing, I understand that living somewhere is leagues away from actually living there. Just look at all the happy tourists who love to raaaaaaaaave about how damn friendly and genuine Japanese people are. When they say "genuine" I don't think they are talking about the smiling elevator lady who is picturing bitch slapping you in the same instant that she purrs irrashaimase.

Osaka how I love thee, with your throngs of yankii boys and girls, love of eating and drinking, and ability to converse with anyone. A break down of our trip in parts:
Part 1 - Osaka, gangsta style

Y-san, of Yakuza and Hotel Room fame, came to pick us up from our hotel in a tinted-window Lexus and drove us to a nearby spot with reggae and cold beer. The drinking commenced at 6 and didn't let up until around 3 the next morning and that was only because we all lost the ability to accurately aim the rim of a glass at our own mouths. While I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of a negotiating table from him, Y-san is such a sweetheart as only a cute yakuza with tattoos can be. He kept thanking us for coming down to Osaka to see him and had lunch planned for us the next day.

Part 2 - Osaka, okonomiyaki style

We struggled to get up at noon and headed downstairs, this time to a van with tinted windows and a mad sound system. It was time to see what all the Osaka okonomiyaki fuss is all about. Hello fluffy sweet, sweet heaven. We lazed around our tables for a four-hour lunch while Y-san tried to hit on the waitress, a cute exchange student from China. While I would normally cringe at this kind of thing, I couldn't help but beam at Y-san like a fond younger sister as he kept exclaiming how pretty she was in a totally non-threatening way. He even showed her his full back tattoo, which I think was more the alcohol talking than a regular yakuza. Still, the one thing that surprised me the most was his readiness to discuss his job with us. I'm sure if we had been closer to his in-group it would be completely different, but it was like hanging out with a cool uncle who happens to have a shady job. When we rolled out of there buzzed it was dusk, making it feel like we had just transitioned from one night to the next, skipping those mandatory daytime hours in between.

Part 3 - Osaka, blond style

I ditched the beau and went off for some blond bonding with the fabulous Corinne, who I now really wish lived here in Tokyo. Not being married (with children) I kind of fall outside the foreign wives circle here so there's not a lot of you-have-a-Japanese-partner-too? bonding for me in Tokyo, which made it even more special to hang out with someone who knows the score only too well. Corinne was equal parts lovely and funny, and extremely patient when it came to giving the beau instructions on how to locate us (seriously, why don't Japanese men use GPS or ask for fucking directions?!). Girl, you need to visit Tokyo ASAP!

Part 4 - Osaka, baseball style

I had no idea that when I first wrote about Japanese highschool baseball two years ago that I would find myself there in person this summer, sweating in the stands and contemplating opening my parasol. I saw a few other women with open brellas but couldn't bring myself to do it and so got a lovely diagonal flash of burn from my one shoulder top. Hot.

I have always said that baseball is eight innings too long and to be perfectly honest, if there were no hot dogs or beer, I wouldn't ever step foot inside a stadium. I can see how the highschool baseball tournament here could be exciting to watch - unlike the pros, there are much more mistakes and sudden turning points to the games - but I enjoyed watching the cheering section much more. Each school brings their own cheering squad with matching uniforms, which includes both a marching band and actual cheerleaders with pom poms. At one point in the game, the beau pointed out a student standing at the very back of the cheering squad who was holding a huge school flag pole diagonally, and informed me that this poor schmuck had to do this for the entire game without rest, and that, get this, it was an honor!

I forgot to bring our binoculars, so unfortunately I was not able to hone in when the losing team began furiously scooping up dirt while crying, which is possibly the most riveting parts of the game for me. Highschool baseball is such a quintessential Japanese experience, and you know you're not in Kansas anymore when the teams line up in front of their respective cheering squads and bow before and after the game.

Part 5 - Osaka, night style

After getting lured into a love hotel area by all the pretty lights, we soon found there were no watering holes to be found. Where do these people hydrate after sex? Some more wandering and we found Osaka's Shinjuku ni-chome, and while there was a very interesting lady waiting for customers, any customers it seemed, in front of Bar Chicago, we decided to press on. This became a running joke for the rest of the trip - that we could always count on Bar Chicago to be there if all else failed. Patience wearing thin after entering another area with not much open, we saw this blue neon sign calling us with its siren song from the depths of a dark and narrow alley. I am partial to dark and narrow alleys, so obviously I dragged the beau's ass in there. With an upstairs loft area and 5 seats at the counter, we were soon engaged in raucous conversation with the bartender and the couple next to us. We were practically tripping over each other to experience the locals, and they in turn, seemed equally fascinated by these strange creatures from Tokyo visiting "for fun." I think their Osakan charms made the beau a little too comfortable, because before long we were discussing the whole "curtain/carpet" thing and when I was asked whether mine matched, the beau blurted out, "She doesn't have any!!!" Thanks for that, darling. Discussion on Brazilian waxing ensued...

The following night I was starting to approach the brink of bitchy when we couldn't find a place local enough to drink at, when a young thing approached the beau with a flyer. I of course was sceptical, thinking she was customer fishing for a hostess club, but nonetheless we followed her into a building filled with bars and cabaret clubs. Where we ended up was a typically Japanese nomiya with white leather and gold interior decor happening. With only one looong counter, it used to be a girls' bar, but after the turn in the economy, they made it an everyone's bar. I'm not sure how well that is working out though, as all the customers I saw were male. Not that I can blame them - apart from the male manager, the other bartenders were these super cool Osaka girls. I've never seen Japanese women like girls from Osaka - brash, loud and with a very particular conversation style, I immediately girl crushed on them. If Japan was highschool, the girls from Osaka would be the wild, funny, popular girls that every other student is intimidated by. We spent hours there, talking to the manager and a couple of the female bartenders; I even had the ole standard of beauty conversation with one husky-voiced bartender with a sparkly headband holding back her long caramel curls. As always, it began with praise for my big nose, which is fast becoming competition for my breasts. Why are some women here surprised that foreigners find them exotic and enviable? Granted, I don't necessarily (hello highschool in Vancouver), but you know, people from the sticks of middle America and manga-obsessed Europeans. I am so used to Asians that quite frankly, I am a little surprised every time I look in the mirror and see some white girl staring back.

I think we were a little shocked at the friendliness. The bartenders we encountered immediately begin engaging customers, smoking and drinking along with them to encourage a kind of camaraderie. Not that there aren't friendly bartenders in Tokyo, there are, but there are so many places in Tokyo where you can go for a drink and the bartender says nothing more to you than what is required for taking your order. To put it succinctly, we were smitten.

Also, can I just say for the record that Kinryu ramen is so-ho overrated? Yes, it's cool that you sit on raised tatami platforms to eat but the ramen itself is a major disappointment and the reviews make me think the ravers have never had ramen outside of Osaka.

Osaka has definitely made a play for my heart, and I may never look at Tokyo with quite the same love again. I am already planning how to get down again there for a clandestine meeting. Don't tell Tokyo.

Friday, October 1, 2010

I'm gonna Shanghai you

It's like a bread line for the train! I wish this poster had been out a few months back when I saw red and threatened to cut a bitch (all in my head of course) when she tried to nudge me off the tracks. In fact, I think Tokyo Metro should market and sell a pack of yellow cards with the manner posters printed on them. I would carry them around in my purse for ease of reference so that whenever I spot a violation, I can pull the relevant one out and "yellow card" the offending party. I would do this while giving them my best "back off bitch" eyes.

I'm feeling rather groovy about this month's poster, possibly because I didn't have to see it this morning because I BIKED to work! Now that I have finally found a fairly non-populated route and my ass has stopped feeling like I just had anal sex for ten hours straight, things are looking waaaay up in the commuting department. I almost want to laugh maniacally as I buzz by on my bike because it feels so ridiculously good to be on it (but not in a bad anal sex to good anal sex way), pesky pedestrians and all.

I'm feeling so good about this month's poster, in fact, that my first reaction on seeing it was that we should all just make like we're in China, since that's what everyone is itching to do anyway. I just got back from a little exploratory voyage to Shanghai and I am so over the passive aggressive behaviour here - give me aggressive rock-out-with-your-cock-out craziness any day. The Shanghainese have no qualms about putting it all out there and rushing into that train before anyone can blink, and after seeing some similar behaviour here in Tokyo, I think it's time to drop the facade Tokyoites. Although there is the slight problem of comparing the Japanese to the Chinese; I think it could be one of the worst insults out there to a Japanese person. Take for example, exhibit A: I want the beau to stop spitting outside, so I tell him he is acting just like they do in China. Fastest behavioral turnaround I. have. ever. seen. For reals though, let's start gunning for it like they do in China.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Recent email to my parents

Re: Vroom vroom

Bitches better watch out.

Snuggle up bitches

I am digging the graphics and layout on this month's poster. A gentle reader alerted me to this ridonculous collection of posters gathered by Pink Tentacle. If you want to see some outrageous stuff, click the shit out of that link. I should have been in Japan in the eighties if it weren't for the fact that I would have been about 5 and not able to enjoy all that the delicious bubble had to offer. When a colleague of my dad's came to Japan and I took him and his partner to dinner, he wanted to know whether there were still buildings in Roppongi with a different discotheque on each floor, which he had apparently experienced on a trip to the Tokyo of Long Ago. The closest thing I know in Roppongi to a discotheque is Lexington Queen and even that is a stretch (notice how I am using the old name, which tells you how long it's been). After we ate I sent them on their merry way and although I have no idea what they ended up doing that night, I hope they found some glam.

What does this anecdotal nugget have to do with the manner poster? Absolutely nothing, but I am terribly behind on posting and have been for the last, what, year maybe, so I feel I should say something. It's holy shit September already and time to get serious about Serious Things but I am hoping and praying to Buddha that by November everything will be fabulous. Just in case you're worried that I'm not having fun, I am, and just this past weekend I was out at Koenji's Awa Odori festival with the beau looking like a show pony in yukata with hair sculpted and coiffed and asking a Japanese friend if he had been busy doing sexy times the night before in a Borat voice, which context he did not get of course but it was fine because the couple we're hoping to double date with did and everyone laughed eventually. Phew. Thank god for fun friends who can all laugh together even when the joke has to be translated.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I know I got a bad reputation

and it isn't just talk, talk, talk.

Any of you know this song by Freedy Johnston? Most people who know me would probably not believe that I know the words to most of the This Perfect World album, but I do, somehow. I think my dad received a box of CDs from a friend/radio dj and Johnston's album somehow became a staple on road trips. I don't trust my memory so I had a squizz at his Wikipedia entry and apparently, "Johnston's songs are often about troubled loners, and cover topics like heartbreak, alienation and disappointment." Well fuck me sideways, I should have made one of the tracks my theme song for living here in Tokyo a long time ago!

I'm not sure if I've ever written it out loud, but you may have noticed that while I am fairly content to play the role of ostracized whitie at the Kaisha, I do try to "up" my, for lack of a better term, positive visibility, around the office when the opportunity presents itself. What do I mean by positive visibility? Well I know for a fact that people are rampant gossips but due to my sterile and minimum contact with so many of my Kaisha comrades, I don't get a chance to do a lot of personal PR. In other words, most of what goes around about me is based on some sporadic conversations with secretaries or observations you might make about an animal in the zoo - "G-san eats raw carrots," "Don't you think G-san looks a little peeved today?" or "G-san needs a haircut."

I don't mean to come off as a bitch on wheels around the office, but I'm afraid that's sometimes how my coping mechanisms are construed. On the rare occasion I engage in some kind of social activity or interaction that goes beyond perfunctory grunts, I try to act perfect, whatever that means. By my somewhat screwy logic, this will help to increase my P.V. (positive visibility, stay with me people!), and increase the flow of pleasant gossip tidbits that get traded behind cupped hands.

Yesterday I was finally invited to lunch by a Professional and two Secretaries. I say finally because I often do work for this guy and despite sitting in the same area and him twice sending his Secretary to me with cakes, I have only ever spoken to him on the phone. You may also find it interesting that said Professional walks by me on a daily basis because I am located near the smoking room (hello 1970s).

Let me just start by saying I think I have a new clush, which works out perfectly numbers-wise because my gyoza man is gone, much to my stomach's and eyes' collective dismay. How I would have liked to stroke that ponytail...

I never realized how attractive this Professional is because I only ever see him in profile, either passing in front of my desk, or reflected in the glass as he passes behind my desk. But trust me, he is damn fine. Or "fit" if you're in England. I didn't even mind the somewhat predictable conversation because I got to look at him the whole time, nodding and grinning so hard I woke up this morning with sore cheeks. When explaining away his sexily ruffled hair, he mentioned that he had slept on the floor of his office last night. Actual response: "Really? You look totally fine." Inner monologue: "Keep doin what you're doin, rarrr."

During the course of lunch, I was particularly careful to act over-enthused about everything, while still maintaining some modicum of lady-like posturing: "OMG you watch Gossip Girl too?!?!?!" "This gooey potato paste is super delish!" "You grew up in the Tokyo area? That's amazing!" Remember, I had one short hour to work my P.V. and hope that some tales of my goodness were spread around the office by 6. I didn't even miss a beat when my chopstick kung fu skills were praised, and when the Professional confessed to me after prodding by his Secretary that he had been wanting to have lunch with me for over a year but felt he needed to get his English up to snuff first, I just about flew across the table at him.

After lunch, I did the obligatory thank you email and got into an email exchange with one of the secretaries. I almost forgot how laughably over the top and childish my emails become when writing other women at the Kaisha. I normally would have said, "Thanks for lunch, let's do it again soon! G." But not here, here I go all out with, "Dear Secretary-san, Thank you so much for lunch today, I really enjoyed talking with you!!!♪♪ It was so fun. Please invite me for lunch again soon!!! (^ ^) Best regards, G." Now today's lunch actually was fun, but this is the kind of email I would send after a lunch spent checking my watch too. More on this later.

I think my short hour of happy Kaisha love time will be enough to last me another half year, at least. Unless of course, my P.V. strategies start working and fill my inbox with invitations. But I'm a realist - you and I both know that ain't happening. A few posts later I am bound to start in on the woe me, Kaisha bitch, schtick after I realize that no amount of personal PR is going to reverse the position I have entrenched myself in.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Event of the Season (II)

This has been a long time coming, but I will use the excuse the beau's mother gave me last week: "I have been completely drained since the wedding in April." A child was born however, over the weekend in fact, so I feel I should at least get through the wedding before writing anything about its tiny catalyst with big eyes.

So where were we? Lights, costumes and fire fit for a carnival I believe. There was no proper ceremony with faux priest, but Baby Mama and Baby Daddy stood on their little white platform and exchanged vows, rings and an extremely chaste peck (come on, I think a bun in the oven means the jig is up). Unfortunately I wasn't smashed enough by that time to yell "stick ya tongue down her throat!" and it is my humble opinion that such a display was sorely lacking.

Keep in mind, if you will, that this whole thing was being narrated by the hotel's wedding MC, with a voice and tone not dissimilar from those used by shopgirls. Just in case we missed some small detail, the MC was right there spooning it down our throats. Aside from the waiters and other minions running around, there was also the wedding coordinator, who wasn't coordinating in the way you might imagine, she was more like a puppet master. Yes, I like that, let's call her the Puppet Master. She was there not to ensure the smooth running of things behind the scenes, but that the whole wedding went off like a well-rehearsed play. A play where the director comes on stage and gives the actors directions as they perform. I wish I was joking.

There were toasts and as the eating began, so did the speeches. An employer and friend from each side gave speeches and when Baby Daddy's rowdy boss got up, he encouraged us to shout Banzai! after each of his toasts and just when I was wondering whether everyone else present knew this was a shotgun marriage, he toasted to the little baby growing inside Baby Mama's belly. Banzai! That took care of that and I had to force myself not to look at the beau's mom at this point to see how she was taking it. Let it be acknowledged that these people don't smile in pictures. For reals. When my mom saw the photos of me, mama and aunt, the first thing she said was that they looked very severe. This has caught on, and I find myself looking at cameras with a blank face these days, resulting in photos with me looked seriously ticked off. I honestly don't know whether the no-smiling thing has to do with this particular series of events or whether it is simply cultural. Any thoughts? I'm used to wedding pictures with people smiling their asses off so I can only imagine what Baby Mama and Daddy's album will look like: lots of lights, frothy white tulle and unsmiling guests. When I did look over at the beau's mom, she didn't look like she was celebrating at all, our whole table in fact felt a bit like that, and I did allow myself to feel a twinge of sadness. I'm not chalking it up to the whole shotgun thing, although that would certainly contribute, but I feel like part of it is the fact that, as family, we are supposed to mostly stay out of the way at the wedding.

Half way through, BM and BD disappeared behind the scenes and then when the MC instructed, we had to stand up and clap for the new couple again as they entered through French doors to a crazy light show going on up towards the ceiling. Their second outfits felt very Harajuku meets Versailles. I purposely didn't crop it to show you that every guest at the wedding was like a member of the paparazzi, snapping camera and cell phone pictures at every chance they could get. I put the beau in charge of my camera so at least I didn't have to pretend to be interested in taking photos at every small milestone as the wedding progressed. No camera = more time to swill wine.

In their new outfits, the new couple then did the candle lighting ceremony that I have only ever seen at a Japanese wedding, but I suspect Japanese people think comes from us. As they made the rounds to each table with the torch, the Puppet Master was right there with them, ensuring they made all the right movements and didn't scorch some bitch's big hair. I should probably mention here that during this whole ridiculous display, there was some awful flighty music that was probably supposed to encourage tears, and goddamn it if I didn't feel myself getting a little teary. I solved this by looking at the beau's mom, who still looked pissed off, which shocked me back into reality.

Your job as a guest is never done at a Japanese wedding by simply taking your seat. If you are a work friend, employer, school friend or part of the family, you must make the rounds to each table to pour beer for everyone and pay your respects. This looked exhausting but luckily my special unmarried whitie exemption precluded me from this onerous chore, and I got to remain seated while reaping the benefit of liquid respect paid to the beau and his family. I would put the time Baby Mama's parents came over with beer among the highest on the shotgun wedding Uncomfortable Moment List. You may recall my musings on how I would be introduced as the illegitimate white daughter-in-law sideshow and once again, the inappropriateness of Japanese politeness saved me. Every guest had a table chart showing who was who, so when Baby Mama's parents came over bearing a bottle of Sapporo, they knew who the beau was and there were perfunctory introductions by his father. None of which included me, the smiling freak show in kimono sitting next to him who looked like someone had just pressed the repeat button on her smile-and-nod-furiously function. I guess I shouldn't have expected any drawn swords or rolled r's, but I was mildly disappointed at my weak shock value.

Towards the end, which was timed down to the minute, Baby Mama read a letter to her parents before her and Baby Daddy presented each set of parents with flowers - par for the course. I believe at some weddings here, the bride reads a letter to her mother-in-law, begging for her kind favour and pleading for a married life out of her line of fire. Having only met the beau's mom once before this felicitous event, however, I guess that kind of letter wouldn't be super apprope. Before the grand finale and encore of applause (all dictated by the drill sergeant MC), the Puppet Master lined up Baby Mama and Daddy with the parental sets and you could see her going down the line telling them to step into place and when exactly to bow. Way to make an awkward moment even more cringe-worthy. I felt a bit sorry for the parents, really, being made to stand under the harsh stage lights while being groped and fondled by the Puppet Master. Final thank yous were given by the papas-in-law and Baby Daddy, and then we were basically told to get the hell out.

What would a recap be without a post-mort?! Stay tuned for the final part in this wedding trilogy, which includes the revealing of the surprise guest.


While I was waiting for my lunch companions at the entrance to a restaurant today, an old man literally walked right into me from behind and then drifted off in the other direction muttering something to himself. A group of office ladies lunching nearby had seen the whole thing happen and were tittering about it to themselves. When I glanced over and caught one's eye, she gave me a huge knowing smile. I grinned back. It was such a pedestrian social interaction but one that I haven't had for what feels like years. I felt like shouting Yes! I am human too!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Road kill

I've never owned a car or motorized vehicle of any sort, but from what I hear about them, I am kind of glad to be living in Tokyo with the web of trains connecting all points in the city: the money I would pay in insurance and up-keep can be used for clothing and footwear, and I only have to rely on my legs and the trains to get me from point A to B. This has now been tested. Again.

I thought the first time my heel snapped off and I had to quite literally hop to the cobbler where I was given a pair of ugly Office Lady shoes to wear to work while he fixed them was horrific enough. Apparently not.

The shoe gods put me in my place once again at the exact moment I crossed the main Shibuya intersection. I could feel something strange going on down there but as in the first stage of grief, was in denial that anything was happening. That didn't make the problem go away so I stopped and inspected the damage - the cork wedge heel was starting to come unstuck from the rest of the shoe, threatening to turn it into a flat. I decided there was no time for triage and that if I walked carefully and with purpose, it would remain stuck on. For about five steps.

The next thing I recall was feeling the ground flat beneath my foot and looking back, only to find the carnage laying a few feet behind me. I tried to do the whole picking-up-the-heel-of-my-shoe-that-just-fell-off-is-soooo-natural thing and quickly tucked it into my bag like a dirty tampon. I then did the whole walking-with-one-shoe-that-is-three-inches-higher-than-the-other-is-soooo-natural thing down Center Gai, which would have been par for the course post-Pure at 5am six years ago but not so much today. Luckily my shoe decided to commit suicide in Shibuya, where there are many a store selling cheap shoes, instead of Ginza, where I would have been one fucked puppy indeed.

I ended up with a ghetto pair of flip flops that are vastly inferior to cherry red wedges, but thankfully the wonderful and totally not Generic Jen B did not bat an eye at them, for which I will be eternally grateful. There isn't much of a moral to this story, but you can be sure I no longer trust my shoes to get me across the city and might have to consider a permanent space for a pair of plan B shoes inside my purse, because you know this shit is going down again some day.

SP recognized as fashion-forward

While catching up on the glossies at the hair salon, I made the pleasing discovery that the ole SP has made it onto the hallowed pages of British Vogue. I wouldn't consider it brilliant though, not when you have to worry about whether it's going to run out on you every day...

Postcard from the Kaisha: masked edition

Welcome to those of you finding your way over via Loco in Yokohama. If you're already a gentle reader of mine, please check out Loco's site for a different and well-written spin on Japan.

I suspect that I was recently schooled by my secretary but as always, I can't be sure. I've done a Kaisha Health Edition before, but recent events have given me pause to consider the issue again.

Last week (or was it the week before?) I developed a narsty cough but showed up at work diligently nonetheless. I say diligently but I'm sure others would called it stupidly, for who wants to sit next to an audibly sick person? I for one, do not.

However, not being able to take time off, I came in anyway and tried to be as courteous a cougher as possible. The next day, I arrived to my secretary in a mask. Exploring the possibilities, I can only think that she was sick herself, or else was making a passive aggressive gesture to encourage my donning of a mask as well.

Parasols, manic thank yous and apologies, and secretive toileting I can do, but I cannot get on board with wearing a mask when sick here. It looked like my secretary was wearing a small white muzzle. This put me in mind of a tiny dog I saw the other day fitted with a tiny muzzle, which made me wonder whether it would even be able to get its petite mouth open wide enough to do any real damage.

I think masks look creepy. I realize with stuff like swine flu around, there has been a big contagion scare, but this mask obsession has been around in Japan far longer than the flu scare. I understand the implied courtesy behind wearing a mask when sick and I'll admit to turning away from someone openly coughing, but the look is too freaky for me. I don't want to become known as Contagious Whitie (as opposed to Eating Whitie, Audibly Peeing Whitie or Ostracized Whitie - hey! collect all three!), but I am a bit stumped as to what to do when sick at work other than religiously taking my over-prescribed medicine from the Dr. I would love to know the statistics on whether common cold transmission is lower here or whether these masks are a total farce. I of course am inclined to think that the masks are fairly useless and have become more of a cultural thing, but I have most definitely been wrong before.

For the time being, I will just have to wonder whether my secretary is trying to beam a message at me from behind her little white mask.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Please do it again, man

We can safely assume now that Mrs. Creepy has had a baby and yet she still looks positively geriatric in the August Metro poster. I find it interesting that they have used this young afro'd Japanese guy as the beacon of courtesy this month. I am a bit of a fan of Japanese men in their native footwear in the summer, but doesn't the rest of his look seem a little dated? I think a yanki guy would be a more accurate portrayal, as I can only assume that this guy with his Hawaiian shirt is supposed to represent the "type" of people in Japanese commuter society who are not courteous. And if that is indeed their intention, then a regular old fucker of a salaryman would be spot on, no?

You'll have to excuse my tone, but I have just gotten back from a mini tour of the big summer festivals up in the Tohoku region and it was a harsh fall back into reality to be confronted with all the jerks in their suits, the subway and yes, the Kaisha. I've been totally immersed in festival fever for the past three days, in and out of three different cities, and the drum and flute melodies that were floating around in my head immediately fled like startled children upon my return to the corporate world. If there was a sound effect, it would be that of a record player that's been bumped, sending a nice scraa-atch sound out of the speakers. I don't think I would do very well in the countryside - I thrive on concrete and the smell of new clothes in boutiques - but the last week has made me want to run away and join the matsuri circus. Did I mention that my chaperones on said tour were the beau's parents? I went up there by myself like a big girl, minus the beau, and was accordingly treated like a young lady in Jane Austen's time: on the road alone and susceptible to highway robbers and all other manner of bad characters. There are no real horror stories to tell on that front, but I think we ended up drinking at a snack in Aomori city despite the beau's dad telling us it was a regular watering hole. Pictures to follow.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Under my para para para

It's happening, I am slowly becoming the wayward gaijinette who is falling prey to the native customs. I'm long past using the Sound Princess and carrying my purse in the crook of my arm and this past week I took it to a whole other level: the parasol, or sun umbrella, if you will. Summer after summer I thought that I could avoid the parasol, thinking of it as one of those things I could get away with in Japan but nowhere else (except other Asian countries that place a premium on milky whiteness), but I have succumbed gentle readers. I found myself rustling through the sale racks at oioi (or "Marui" if you must), with determination to walk out of there with either a fabulous wide-brimmed hat a la Hollywood starlets in bygone eras or a parasol.

I will admit to being a bit of a vampire this summer - rarely venturing outdoors on weekdays until twilight - but when I am outside I'd like to avoid sunburn and with my tall nose and all, sometimes sunscreen just doesn't cut it. There's also the grease factor and I'd rather not use sunscreen when I am only going to be exposed for less than 30 minutes. Perhaps you have seen some of the summer fashions of the sun-conscious faction around town these past few weeks. I wouldn't exactly call them fetching with the black arm "warmers" and what I can only call "Asian lady visors." I first encountered the ALV in Vancouver, where the older Chinese ladies like to rock out in the summer wearing these over sized visors that you can pick up at the suburban Asian malls.

Determined not to fall victim to this, uh, trend, I thought a tasteful hat or parasol would shade me from the harsh rays. During my foraging attempt at oioi, I nixed the hat idea after seeing some "young" versions of the ALV. Turning to the assortment of parasols, I discovered that a) they are fucking expensive and b) there is no such thing as a stylish parasol. The last time I owned a parasol I was a little girl: it was candy red and ruffled with a white plastic handle and for some reason I want to say that my uncle picked it up at the horse track. I was the shiznit at five with my ruffled red parasol and pink feather boa. At 26 I still wouldn't mind being the shiz but with a little more grown-up added to the mix. I'm as drawn to sparkle as the next girl and still rock gold bamboo hoops at times, but I was hoping for a modern and stylish parasol that screamed neither "little girl" nor "old Asian lady."

The sale area was a bit overwhelming and I almost talked myself into buying a white ruffly parasol with a purple print that would be more suited to a lolita cosplayer walking around Harajuku than a Kaisha geisha. Everything was either lacy, adorned with rhinestones or printed with ugly flowers. WHY MUST EVERYTHING BE CUTE? And fugly cute that that. I tried to reason that the turquoise parasol with cut-out bow trim fit my bill but in the end settled for an off-white model with only one rhinestone on the whole thing. Stingy of me, I know. Thanks to the sale and some gift certificates, I barely paid anything but the parasol was originally 10,000 yen. $100 for a lousy piece of moving shade!!! Imagine how thrilled I was to discover it raining this morning.

Sting me white

Comments have been responded to! It may take me a while but I do appreciate them. Now on to regular programming...

I have to be extremely careful when I'm at the drugstore because while some of the products bear seemingly familiar names and logos, one of Japan's charming little idiosyncrasies is the propensity to add a little oompf to regular products by either mentholating them or adding a whitening agent. I may joke about being the resident whitie at the Kaisha, but frankly, I don't want to get much whiter than this.

A girlfriend of Indian (dot not feather) descent once used a skin cream from Japan that had an almost bleaching effect on her skin. She relayed the story of how her and some school friends shared the product around and she ended up with strange, patchy markings on her neck. Not only the Japanese brands, but some well-known European cosmetics companies also offer "white" product lines for the Japanese market. I can't begin to understand the chemistry of it, but I would be hard-pressed to believe that whitening your skin is not damaging.

While there may be no cosmetic damage, mentholated products also intrigue me. When I was a student here with a minor rash, I soon discovered that the ointment I had bought for it contained menthol, not an ingredient high on my list when I am applying it to skin delicate and raw from being scratched. Luckily the drugstores here do carry "normal" versions of the product you seek, but for those masochists out there, there is always the methol version. I wouldn't call the beau a masochist by any means (he would definitely answer "s" when posed with the common-in-Japan question of "s or m"?), but he has become attached to a mentholated body wash that apparently leaves you feeling fresh and rejuvenated. I tried it once and the pain I felt in certain areas I can only liken to that felt when bathing in the dead sea as a teenager. It really gives a new meaning to the phrase "fire in the hole."

Once while "holidaying" up North at the beau's family home, I had to buy some contact solution at the local 7-Eleven having forgotten mine in Tokyo. The following morning when I went to put my contacts in my eyes, sur-fucking-prise! mentholated contact solution! If that doesn't wake you up while simultaneously giving you a stoned, blood-shot look, I don't know what will.

For the menthol-inclined smoker, Japan is a veritable paradise. Not only does Marlboro sell "Black Menthol" brand cigarettes (best described as the king of all menthol cigarettes), but Kool has a line of cigarettes where you have to physically pop a menthol capsule embedded in the filter with your fingers for the menthol goodness to seep out. High tech, I know.

This is my version of a gaijin public service announcement: please take care so that you don't end up bleached or stung by some unexpected menthol dear readers - it's a bit like navigating a jungle out there.